Herod, the king of Judaea, watches as his soldiers slaughter the innocent children of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus, whom Herod feared would eventually seize his kingdom. According to Boccaccio, 144,000 children were murdered.
The story of Herod was particularly appropriate for Boccaccio's book, which recounted the tricks that fate can play. Made guardian and defender of Galilee at the age of fifteen, Herod exhibited wisdom beyond his years. He rose through the political ranks to become king, building cities and impressive edifices. Suspicious and greedy, he executed his wife and children for plotting against him. In his old age, he suffered from a gruesome skin disease and a guilty conscience, eventually leading him to attempt suicide unsuccessfully with a sword.